Self-starters Also Have to Self-stop

It’s so true it’s a cliché: successful self-employment is grounded in work ethic, commonly crystallized as the discipline of self-starting.

But for sustained self-employment, self-stopping is just as important.

Boundaries dissolve when you work from home. You change up the location: desk, sofa, porch.  You change what you wear: business casual  or just casual. You change hours according to the urgency of the project and clients’ and co-workers needs.

And without the discipline of walking away, work attaches itself to you like a label that just won’t scrape off, as I and others discussed in this Bloomberg Businessweek story.  

Suddenly, commuting, in a car, on the actual road, starts to look pretty luxurious. The distance and time separates you from work. You have a chance to clear your thoughts, shift gears, cleanse the palate.

The traditional advice is to draw clear boundaries, but especially now, in a pandemic, that’s hard to do. Rapidly shifting client needs and a trembling economy force rapid response.

Here’s one trick that can help you make a clean break. It’s counterintuitive, but that’s why it works.

Typically, it’s a good habit to finish a section of work to close out the day. You need that sense of finality, of crossing an item off the list.

But try this: open tomorrow’s work. Start a sentence or a design or a line of code.

Walk away.

Breaking the compulsion to finish is integral to sustained self-employment.

The work is never done.


But you must be done, at some point.

As hard as it is for self-starters, practice stopping. Pausing mid-thought or mid-sentence is a good place to pick up the next day. It’s not really stopping. It’s suspending that thought and resuming it. This process makes it easier to walk away and walking away makes it easier to come back, day after day.